God is good...right?
Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not, "So there's not God after all," but, "So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer."- CS Lewis
Sometimes I think it would be easier if I didn't believe in an all powerful God. That I was the kind of person for whom the thought of a supreme being who is omnipotent and over all things seemed utterly unbelievable. Because that would be the best explanation for all the things that break my heart about this world. If there is no being who is above all things of course it makes sense that the world would be chaotic. Full of immense good but also immense evil. But I do believe in an all powerful God. I do believe in a God who is omnipotent and omnipresent. And so I find myself in the same position as C.S. Lewis in his book A Grief Observed. Believing in God which means beginning to believe such terrible things about him.
The questions I struggle with have no good answers. Believe me, friends have tried. But I'm tired of their attempts to answer them. My favorite Psalm says "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." But the words that used to comfort, now torture me. If he knew it all then he knew that I would be born in the United States free from oppression and Civil War and that someone born the same exact moment as me in Syria wouldn't make it to adulthood. He knew my mother would be diagnosed with cancer not once but two times and come through them both alive and well while friends' mother's would go through the same struggle and not live to see their grandchildren.
And the answers I am given don't help. They make me angrier if I'm honest. I don't want to hear about prayers and faith and believing. As if the people on this earth who experience tragedy just didn't pray hard enough or have enough faith or said words that spoke death instead of life. Those answers aren't answers. They feel like bullshit. Bullshit that we say to ourselves because we can't handle the truth.
And what is that truth? Is it that God is all knowing and all powerful but generally uncaring? That's what Lewis struggled with after his wife died. It's what the whole book A Grief Observed is about. He had written about pain and doubt before in a book called The Problem of Pain. But that book was written before personal loss had entered the marrow of his soul. Theologically deep answers about a fallen world and God giving us all free will no longer satisfy when it's your wife suffering and dying a painful death from cancer. So he wrote A Grief Observed. The book is an anguished study of grief. Grief not just over the lose of a loved one, but grief over the loss of a certain belief in the creator; the belief in his goodness...his love and mercy. Is this who God really is? Have I finally discovered the truth only to find the truth so painful I can hardly bear it?
When I said we couldn't handle the truth I'm not so sure I meant the truth of God's character being that of indifference as opposed to active interest and love. Instead, I think we can't handle the truth of uncertainty. Because the older I get the more I am certain there is not an answer on this earth that will satisfy the questions of my soul. And that the dissatisfaction I feel when answers are attempted is my spirit rebelling against what it knows is a false truth. I am not my physical body. I am a spiritual being placed on a physical earth. The language of the physical cannot compute with the spiritual. Like shoes that almost fit but are still a little too big for my feet. I can walk in them, but not with total comfort.
Lewis comes to no definitive conclusions about why a just and loving God allows human suffering; why he intervenes and heals some but not all. And maybe that's why I love this book so much. Maybe that's why lately it has become a comfort read like no other book I own. I read it and I marvel that the man who wrote of his belief in God with such certainty in Mere Christianity thought and struggled with the same things I struggle with. That his purpose and ability to affect the world he lived in was not hampered by his doubts. That the God whose goodness he had such a hard time trusting in did not hold that lack of trust against him.
So do I believe such terrible things about God? Yes. Almost daily. And then I don't. Because a God who lets me think such terrible things about him and continues to love me anyway must be a pretty good God indeed. For now I'll keep looking into that dark glass knowing that every now and then I'll glimpse the truth and those moments will sustain me until the day the lights come on and I see him face to face.